Why Do Dogs Attack Squeaky Toys

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Introduction

You come home from work to find your living room is a minefield of white fluff. Who or what could possibly have created all of this carnage? Suddenly, you are greeted by your canine sidekick with the remnants of a squeaker still firmly in his mouth, and it hits you. Another toy has bitten the dust. Can you relate? Does your dog destroy every toy in his path? Could you rent your dog out as a toy durability tester for a toy manufacturing company? If so, you are not alone. Total toy destruction is something most dogs engage in on a regular basis. It's challenging for owners to understand what the appeal of completely dismantling toys is for our dogs. After all, surely a toy you can play with for a week or a month has to be more fun than five minutes of de-stuffing? Yet dog logic is often very different from our own. Though we may not understand it, it is impossible to deny that most dogs find attacking squeaky toys to be extremely gratifying. As with most dog behavior, there are definite reasons why dogs love this activity.

The Root of the Behavior

If you are like most dog owners, you take great pleasure in finding just the right toy for your beloved dog. You bring it home and present it Fido, and his reaction is over the top joy. Then comes...the annihilation. The toy that took you fifteen minutes to pick out is destroyed in less than five! There isn't a toy you haven't tried in your attempts to find the perfect "Fido-proof" prize. You've bought the so-called "indestructible" toys and the toys for tough chewers. The end result is always the same. The toy dies an untimely death, and you're back at PetSmart buying more the next day or week or month. The behavior can be very perplexing to owners, but for dogs, it is a very natural outworking of their instincts. The fact that dogs love toys with squeakers is undeniable. Very few dogs can resist them. 

There are many reasons why dogs are so drawn to squeaky toys. One theory suggests that since domesticated dogs trace their roots to the ancient wolf that their instincts are drawn from their "wild" origins. Wolves would tune their ears for the sounds of potential prey, and those sounds may have closely resembled the noises that are emitted from various types of squeaky toys. Since wolves were responsible for hunting their own food, the survival instinct and drive to both eat and provide food for their young is very strong. Though our modern day dogs have no need to source their own meals, the instinct to respond to noises that sound like prey is very strongly embedded in them and yields a very primal response in our beloved pets. This instinct is more definitively evidenced in certain breeds whose original "job" involved hunting. Such breeds possess a strong drive to chase, hunt, and kill prey, and this is naturally worked out through the finding and "killing" of the squeaker. It provides a great sense of satisfaction to our dogs.

Since our dogs do experience great enjoyment from the sensation of biting down on a squeaker, it is a compelling motivator for repeat behavior. Both the sound and the feeling are enjoyable for the dog. Squeaky toys also provide great mental stimulation for our dogs. Working our dogs' brains is equally as important as maintaining healthy bodies. It is a safe outlet to fulfill natural hunting drive in a dog. But more than this, many dogs are more motivated by squeaky toys than they are by food rewards. This makes squeaky toys a great alternative to treats in training. Have trouble getting and keeping your dog's attention? Sometimes a squeaky toy can do the work nothing else can do. Treat them as a high-value reward. They can be an invaluable tool in helping to build drive in a dog involved in dog performance sports or even to help round up a yard escapee!

Encouraging the Behavior

Are squeaky toys a problem for our dogs?  For some dogs, it is possible for them to become obsessed to the point that playing with toys of this nature is unhealthy. This is not typical behavior of most dogs, but it can occur. In such cases, it is wise to limit or even eliminate play with toys that raise arousal to a threshold that is not productive for the dog. On the whole, though, squeaky toys are great for our dogs. As with all things though, moderation must be observed, and common sense must reign supreme.

When squeaky toys are completely dismantled, we are left with parts and pieces. To us, the toy has now been rendered useless, but for many dogs, this is just a new and different opportunity for play! The problem with this is the stuffing, plastic bits, and fabric remnants can be ingested by our dogs and later cause major intestinal blockages leading to expensive veterinary visits, surgeries, and in extreme cases, even death. To avoid these problems, clean up and dispose of any toy fragments right away and do not allow your dog to play with toys when you cannot be present to supervise. It is always preferable to err on the side of caution to avoid potential problems.  

Other Solutions and Considerations

Not all dogs love squeaky toys. Just as with their human counterparts, dogs are all motivated by different things. For some dogs, balls are the be all and end all.  For others, their absolute top toy is a frisbee while still others prefer to be couch potatoes and live for cuddles and snacks. But on the whole, squeaky toys earn the top prize with most of our canine companions. There are many varieties of squeaky toys to choose from on the market today. Many companies offer more durable options for dogs with a talent for destruction. There are also great monthly subscription boxes available to provide our dogs with a brand new toy selection to look forward to each month.  

Conclusion

Does your dog live to kill squeaky toys? He's definitely not alone. For many dogs, this is the #1 fun thing to do. It's right up there with dog walks and playing ball in the park! Could your dog qualify for the "Master Toy Attacker" award? Let him have his fun. It's a natural outworking of his instincts that provides benefits for both his brain and his body. Pick him up a new squeaky toy to enjoy today!